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Natovi to Mongolia

Sailosi Batiratu
Tuesday, March 05, 2013

THE decision to pursue a career in accounting was made while he was in secondary school.

And the germ of an idea for that decision was sowed while he tended the family shop at Natovi on the coast of Tailevu. Coupled with hard work it has led Joseph Mow; with the support of his wife, Vikatoria nee Feoko and son Philip, to his role as country finance manager at the Mongolia office of one of the leading construction and mining companies in Asia and the Pacific.

He has been in the Mongolian headquarters of the company in Ulaanbaatar for 19 months now having moved from Sydney, Australia.

Joe, as he is more commonly known, was born at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital. He is the son of the late Philip Mow, who was a shopkeeper and also a transport operator at Natovi. His mother, Mary, is now a retired schoolteacher.

The young Joe started school at Natovi Primary School and after Class Six moved to Marist Brothers' Primary School at Toorak in Suva. He then moved to Marist Brothers' High School. His last year was in 1995.

From 1996 to 1998 he pursued a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in accounting and management which he attained in 1998 from the University of the South Pacific.

Apart from the shop at Natovi and the influence of his uncle, who is also an accountant, Joe further explains his choice of subjects: "Before completing secondary school, I decided to pursue accounting in university as I had done well in secondary school.

"However, unlike most of my peers, I chose to do a double major in accounting and management. Most of my friends in secondary school who had also done well in accounting chose to do a single major. The choice of a double major was because I wanted to learn accountancy but also wanted to have some exposure and development in management."

In addition to his degree, Joe, in 2006 became a CA (chartered accountant) through the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia.

Detailing his career decisions Joe says: "After completing my degree at USP, I joined KPMG in Suva. I initially joined the Business Advisory Services division and worked in this area for just over three years before moving to the Audit division, where I worked for another four years.

"Working for a professional accounting firm was challenging but also exposed me to many different types of businesses and organisations. I worked on various aspects of business including audit, taxation, financial accounting and reporting, management co­n­sulting, technical accounting, and business advisory.

"In 2005, after having secured my migration visa a few years earlier, Vicki and I decided to migrate to Australia. We decided that as my visa validity was due to expire the year after, we would take the opportunity to migrate to a larger and more developed country where there would be more opportunities.

"I was able to secure a job with KPMG in Sydney, where I worked in the audit area for a year before joining one of KPMG's clients."

Describing his new employer, he said it was part of a group of companies listed on the Australian Stock Exchange and a leading construction and mining company.

"I joined the company in Sydney as accounting manager and then was promoted to group finance manager within less than two years. I led a team of almost 20 accountants and analysts as group finance manager.

"The team looked after management and financial accounting and reporting, taxation and business systems.

"After less than three years, I was given the opportunity to move to Mongolia to take up the role of country finance manager, where I have now spent more than 19 months. My current role involves leadership of the country finance team but has more interaction with the operations compared to prior roles."

Joe said when they moved to Australia, he and Vicky never imagined they would be leaving within five years to a country as far away as Mongolia. They lived in western Sydney in the Parramatta area.

"There were many Fijians living in the area and there would be regular get togethers around the tanoa. Living and working in Sydney was challenging at first due to the pace of life — where Fiji time does not work.

"My daily commute to work was at least an hour each way, whether on the train or driving to work on the motorway."

On the move to Mongolia, the Natovi boy says: "The decision to move to Mongolia was driven by a few factors:

* A good career opportunity arose;

* We wanted to expand our horizons and working and living in Asia presented an opportunity for travel in the Asia and Europe regions;

* Good life experience for our son; and

* Exposure to a very different climate, people and way of life."

Joe says some of the things, especially food, they miss about Fiji are; dalo, tavioka, ota, fresh fish, rourou, miti, fresh coconut milk (lolo) and other Fijian food. The only root crops they see in the market are kumala and potatoes. Mongolia is landlocked so there is only freshwater fish but which are not so tasty as fish from the sea.

Mongolia, Joe says is similar to Fiji in terms of the state of development of infrastructure.

The Mongolian people, he says, would undoubtedly be one of the more resilient people on earth, considering that Ulaanbaatar is statistically the coldest capital city in the entire world.

"Winter can get as cold as -45 degrees Celsius. Winter gets so cold that we find ourselves spending time at home and not going out."

Joe says that in summer the mercury can go as high 45 degrees Celsius. Humidity is very low (unlike Fiji).

Buddhists make up 53 per cent of Mongolia's three million people. Christians only make up 2 per cent.

Mongolia is known as the "land of the clear blue sky". This is because Mongolia's skies are usually clear blue without any clouds throughout the year, even in winter. Summer is quite nice in the countryside where there is a lot of unspoilt nature.

Joe is the eldest of five siblings and his wife Vicky is from Cikobia which he describes as "the land of the coconut crabs".

At the moment Philip is the only child. One uncle George, works for the Fiji Revenue and Customs Authority; Philip works in PNG as an accountant; his Aunty Maria is working for Ernst & Young in Mongolia, and Uncle John works for Ministry of Public Enterprise here in Suva as a financial analyst.

Three of Joe's four siblings graduated with degrees in accounting from USP.

The only one who didn't, George, graduated with a degree majoring in management and information systems.





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